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LCQ9: Employment visas

     Following is a question by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     It has been reported that a Japanese karate master who came to Hong Kong on invitation of the Karatedo Federation of Hong Kong to engage in a sport exchange event was recently arrested by the Immigration Department (ImmD) on suspicion of taking up employment in Hong Kong, and thus violating the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the circumstances under which visitors who came to Hong Kong to participate in cultural, arts or sports events will be deemed to have taken up employment; the criteria adopted by ImmD for determining if individual visitors have taken up employment, and whether such criteria have been made publicly available for reference by the public and visitors;

(2) last year, of (i) the number of reports received by ImmD that visitors who had come to Hong Kong to participate in cultural, arts or sports events had allegedly taken up employment, as well as (ii) the number of such cases in which prosecutions were instituted by ImmD and the number of visitors involved;

(3) whether ImmD has issued to local organisations which organise cultural, arts or sports events guidelines setting out the circumstances under which applications for work visas on behalf of foreigners coming to Hong Kong on invitation to participate in such events are required, and whether it has formulated measures to facilitate such visitors to file visa applications; if ImmD has, of the details; if not, whether ImmD will consider issuing such guidelines and formulating such measures;

(4) whether it has reviewed if the existing Immigration Ordinance and relevant law enforcement criteria have impeded the exchange activities of local cultural, arts and sports organisations with their counterparts outside Hong Kong; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) given that visitors who participate on invitation in local cultural, arts or sports events in countries such as Singapore, Sweden and Canada have been exempted from obtaining work visas prior to entry, whether the authorities will consider following the practices of those countries to exempt the visitors concerned from obtaining work visas; if they will, of the details of and the implementation timetable for such an exemption; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) Whether visitors' participation in cultural, arts or sports events or competitions during their stay in Hong Kong constitutes employment depends on the actual circumstances of the individual event or competition, and cannot be generalised. Consideration factors include whether the event or competition is commercial in nature, or whether employment contracts, service contracts, remuneration, etc are involved;

(2) The Immigration Department (ImmD) does not maintain the figures requested in the question;

     My consolidated reply to parts (3) to (5) of the question is as follows:

     Under the current legislation, in general, a person who intends to take up employment or undergo training in Hong Kong must first apply for a relevant visa/entry permit before coming to Hong Kong, unless he/she has the right of abode or right to land in the HKSAR.  Any person given permission to enter Hong Kong as a visitor shall not take up any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establish or join in any business during his/her stay in Hong Kong, unless he/she has obtained prior approval of the Director of Immigration.  Information on the above and how to apply for various types of visas/entry permits is available at the ImmD website.

     Non-Hong Kong residents who wish to take up employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, must apply for a relevant employment visa from the ImmD.  There are no restrictions on sectors or quotas for employment visas.  In general, this type of visa is issued to professionals who possess special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong and whose positions cannot be readily taken up by the local workforce.

     The ImmD takes a pragmatic approach in processing visa/entry permit applications for participation in local cultural, arts or sports events or competitions in accordance with the law, while maintaining close communication and co-ordination with the organisers of the events or competitions.  The ImmD shall, having regard to the dates and circumstances of the events or competitions, provide appropriate facilitating measures, including streamlining the visa/entry permit application procedures (such as waiving the submission of supporting documents on academic qualifications) and according priority to urgent applications, in order to meet the actual needs of the participants and organisers.

     The Government reviews its visa/entry permit policy from time to time to ensure that it meets Hong Kong's actual circumstances and needs.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:25


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